Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Colony

The Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Historical site is right next to the school my kids went to. I pass by this spot on my way to work. The Colony was the first group of Japanese to arrive and settle in the United States. The colony had come to grow mulberry trees for silk production, tea plants, and bamboo plants. The colony struggled along and eventually gave up and returned to Japan. The story of Okei, a young girl who stayed here when the rest of the colony left to go back to Japan is touching. She is buried on top of the hill she sat on when she would look forlornly east, towards Japan waiting for the colony to return. Her grave still stands on the top of the hill just a little way up this dirt path. When I worked at Gold Hill Nursery for Al Veerkamp some 20 years ago we would have visitors from Japan come in with post cards picturing the site, asking how to get to the grave and memorial. I believe there is even a replica in Japan. For years the grave has been fenced off but now there is a movement to purchase the property. The Florin and Placer chapters of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), the Fukushima Kenjin Kai, the California State Department of Parks and Recreation, and the American River Conservancy have formed a working partnership which seeks to acquire the historic 303 acre Veerkamp property at Gold Hill, a rural area between Placerville and Coloma in western El Dorado County according to the web page.

This is quite exciting as I would think this would be a huge destination for people, especially from Japan or with Japanese ancestry.The historical significance is huge and it would be great to see the old house and the rest of the property preserved.

The photos are from the shrine and historical marker that was placed here in the sixties. I am not sure but I believe this was when then Governor Regan and Japanese dignitaries came here to honor the colony. The shrine was designed by my friend nurseryman Don Yamasaki's Father.